September 16, 2002 Dear Monroe Watchman:
A few years ago Robert Hedrick, Bud Ballard, and I got together a
collection of “Recollections From The Good Old Days in Alderson.” As
it turned out Hedrick proved to be a fountain of information. Bud
and Robert have passed on now so in their memory I offer the
When the Alderson Post Office was something. You could mail an order
to Montgomery Ward on the evening train Sunday and pick it up at
7:30 Tuesday morning. There was a Railway Post office in the train.
All day preaching and dinner on the grounds.
Greenbrier Velvet ice cream. Oh so good!
F. G. Lobban’s horse-drawn hearse.
When Alderson had five doctors. Beard, Mahood, Fawcett, Argabrite
Doctors had horses to make house calls miles out in the country and
problems getting paid.
Bob Watkins. The gentle black man who lost his feet to a train. He
sold Mikado pencils.. called them “Mikedoo.”
Pence Springs Ginger Ale.
When passenger trains were big and sometimes needed two engines
going over the mountains. How Alderson folks would go to the station
to see who got off. The loud exhaust echoing off the Woodson-Prince
Building as the engines started.
The excursion trains to Washington and Buckroe Beach. It costs $3.50
round trip. The C and O used ever piece of old equipment they had
and trains ran for half the night.
The Herod boys... Lyle, Blaker and Warren... the Baptist parsonage
was a hang-out for half the boys in town.
Alf Carraway’s planning mill and the whine of the machinery.
Julian Dearilng’s store across the street.
The carnivals and circuses at Maple and Virginia. We would watch
three men drive tent pegs. How good the hot dogs, hamburgers and
onions smelled... still Mac’s Snack Shack had the best hamburgers in
The Greenbrier Milling Co. When they were running the flour bleacher
it made so much static you couldn’t listen to the radio in the
When Acme Limestone would detonate 50,000 pounds of dynamite to blow
down a huge wall of limestone. People would come from miles around
to watch the brief but spectacular show.
The golf course at Pence Springs. The “clubhouse” is still there
next to the old springhouse.
The golf course in the dairy field back of the Baptist Church.
When the Simmons, Sharps and Willis had dairies and delivered milk
to customers with horse-drawn wagons.
Remember when Gus Moss and Walter Rogers delivered ice to your
house? And the card you hung out to let them know how much ice you
wanted. Didn’t those ice chips taste good on a July day.
Jim Tolley at the Pence Springs airport where many of us took our
first airplane ride.
A flight of twelve Martin bombers flew over town on the way to the
Logan County mine wars.
Ralph Nash, Noel Ellis and Ernest Godsey had air planes, including
an autogiro... at Glenray.
Alderson had no water purification plant. We carried drinking water
from the Baptist spring or from Shanklin’s pump... this was sulphur
water and the lock on the door required a penny.
The tannery at Marlington dumped poisonous waste into the river,
killing the fish...
Acme Limestone would wash out their settling basins from time to
time and the river turned a bright copper color.
How did “Toby” Keeney get his nickname? A traveling tent show called
the “Beers Players” setup on the show grounds and a comic character
named Toby with a red wig in one of the plays... and Toby Keeney was
a little red headed boy.
Ambrose Ayers running for the House of Delegates and riding his
white mule down main street... followed by Alderson Hi’s marching
“Squire” McNeer and his town band. Great sounds.
Then there was Percy Hullings and the “Merry Melody Makers.” Findley
Russell, Buck Shott, Courtney Pugh, Robert Hedrick, Lee Tate,
Leonard Ballard, and Dodie Vaughn.
People whistling to popular tunes. Can you imagine whistling the
garbage on the radio now?
Coal was delivered at $3.50 a ton.
J. M. Alderson’s store burning to the ground during the wee hours on
Thanksgiving morning.. in zero weather.
The wonderful old time radio programs. How everything stopped for 45
minutes each week day while we listened to Lowell Thomas, Amos and
Andy, and Lum and Abner.
The Russell Theater and how Jim Russell brought us “Gone With the
Wind” before any other theater got it. Cost: $1.00.
Jarret-Massey Hall on the third floor of the Alderson National Bank.
“Silas Green From New Orleans” and “Florida Blossoms” minstrel shows
and their bands marching bands on parade through town... and later
their elephants headed for the middle of the Greenbrier River for
Before we had a liquor store, how rub alcohol at ten cents a bottle
at Townley’s five and dime was a big seller.
The farmers driving their sheep through town... across the bridge..
to the railroad cars.
The covered bridges on Muddy Creek and Mill Creek.
The Hoye’s who lived next to the Methodist Church and their talking
parrot... one warm Sunday morning they hung the parrot’s cage in an
open window next to the church... the preacher erupted in a
particularly loud, emphatic shout... the parrot responded almost as
loudly... “Ha, ha, that was worth a quarter?”.... It almost broke up
William Jennings Bryan’s daughter, Ruth, restored “The Ceaders.” Her
Danish husband, Captain Rohde, would race his sports car around
town... chased by neighbors dogs.
The Greenbrier would freeze over... and ice skating was the thing...
if you had skates.
The flat-pole on Keeney’s Knob.... and later the fire tower.
Real country butter, buckwheat cakes and maple syrup.
Mr. Pence and his helper at the blacksmith shop and the ring, ring,
of the hammer on the anvil.
The hitching lot back of the Methodist Church... and the dozen or so
boys playing marbles ... for keeps!
“Wings” cigarettes at ten cents a pack. “Sunshine” at five cents a
Mail Pouch” tobacco signs on farmers barns.
The boys got their kicks from the Sears, Roebuck catalog corset
pages... catalog pages had a final, practical use...
Separate waiting rooms for men and women at the railroad station.
Livestock feed came in pretty print bags. Many women washed the bags
and made dresses and other apparel from the material.
Commors Drug store and later Hoyes’s in the Alderson National Bank
Some people stole clothes off clotheslines.
The town had a curfew law. The fire alarm would sound at 9 o’clock
and the youths had to be off the streets.
Chief Hall and later Sam Meads.. our wonderful police officers.
Some female escaped from the Federal Prison... the alarm
sounded...and every boy over 15 would join in the search... hoping
for an award.
Then WW 2. Alderson had 303 local boys and girls answer the call.
Charles (Sonny) Fletcher... Medal of Honor winner. (Sonny” lost a
brother in the war.)
Big family reunions all summer long...
A friend says this happened at one of his family reunions...
“A man in his seventies had a severe hearing problem and was
standing off to the side. A little lady in her nineties came up to
him and asked, “Are’nt you Walter?” He said, “What did you say?’ She
said louder, “I’m Ethel.” He said, “I can’t hear you.” She spoke as
loudly as she could, “I’m Ethel, your cousin. I used to change your
diapers.” He answered, “You wouldn’t recognize the old place now.”
The weekly newspaper: “The Alderson Advertiser.” George Werkheiser
was the editor and Bernard Rowe was the “printers devil.” Duncan
Johnson was the last editor.
Walton (Jimmy) Williams made it all the way to Chicago in the Golden
The dust bowl in Oklahoma when millions of tons of soil were blown
away and carried around the world. The glorious red sunsets we saw.
Infantile paralysis, the dreaded killer disease of children.
The Palestine Roller Mill. High water washed out the dam just above
on Muddy Creek.
“Ollie” Walker with one leg and crutches and his butcher shop.
Hamburger 15 cents a pound and steak... 25 cents a pound.
The old Edison phonographs with the “morning glory” horns and
Crosley refrigerators powered by a kerosene flame.
The Saturday night dances... big bands.. at Riverside Inn, Pence
Springs... and so many pretty girls...
People didn’t bother to lock their doors at night... many didn’t
have locks that worked anyway.
Lye soap.. I mean the old fashioned way. Let spring water seep
through wood ashes in a vee-shaped hopper to make the lye. Use fat
from butchering and boil in a big pot outdoors. When cooled the soap
would rise to the top.
1932... when the first Ford V 8”s came out.
The WPA and those wonderful structures they build that dotted the
The minimum wage was 25 cents an hour. Many people were glad to work
The severe drought of 1930-31. Half the people said it was the fault
of President Hoover and the rest said it was the fault of all the
radio’s being used...
Eleanor Roosevelt visited the Federal Correctional Institution...
every one in town .. almost.. got to the train station to see her
Before the days of dial telephones the switchboard was on the second
floor of the Alderson National Bank building The two Vaughn girls
were the operators.
WW2 veterans put lights on our football field... first in the
First football game under lights... with Greenbank Hi... and that
great dance on the 3rd floor of the Woodson-Prince Building
following the game.
That softball team of 1947.. remember “Red” Nickell, Bud Ballard,
Dick Altare, Joe Henry Johnson, Slim Kessler, Charlie Hogsett, Pete
Pugh, Ed Ballard, Marcus Dillon, Don Bryant, Eddie Pence, Jerry
O’Brien, Babe Lowe, and Bobby Black?